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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

moving toward light: opening up and letting go

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Photographers have a term for when there’s not light to shoot a picture. It’s called ‘opening up': you increase the aperture — the hole through which you shoot the picture — to allow more light in. Otherwise, you get a dark picture. The problem w/ opening the lens up is that you have to hold it much steadier, or you get a blurry picture. It used to be — in those long-ago, analog days — that you could buy film for such predicaments: so-called ‘fast’ film, that meant you wouldn’t have to open the aperture up so much, so you wouldn’t need a tripod (or the steadiest of hands!). Now? It’s digital, and you use tripods. Or flash. Or just blur.

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the author's

the author’s

Here’s where you have to bear with me: my beloved mother-in-law is opening up. As she moves toward her final days — however close or distant — she is letting in more and more light. This isn’t always pleasant for those around her: her veneer of politesse (a very thick one, previously) is wearing a bit thin. She wants what she wants, and perhaps it’s her sense of time passing very quickly that underlines how much she needs it NOW. She is both stronger and far far more fragile, standing up for herself in areas where she used to adapt to the wants of others (husband, children, friends). But also terrified of solitude, this woman who could sit for hours on her porch, watching birds.

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Now she often forgets my name, although her face still lightens when my beloved and I appear to her. If she’s sleeping, she has the child-like happiness of a surprise that’s given her. Awake, she may ask where we’ve been…:) For her, the pictures are blurring as she opens up: names float away, and only the immediate now matters.

My beginner’s heart is glad to see her so open to the world, but I also worry about her. Having watched my own mother cross whatever threshold lies between here and wherever, I’m aware that her absence (even though she is so often ‘absent’ now) will hurt deeply. But I also know I am watching life w/out pretense, w/out protection. Mom is what she is, and she’s only (but also so MUCH) that. Mom is — as always — teaching me: how to let go, how to live in the now.

Time passes, and the light remains. You just have to open to it. Even when it hurts.

 

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dog days

the author's

the author’s

The heat index lately has been in triple digits: 105º, 108º, even 118º! Hot, in other words.

Coming from beach breezes, a pool, and a glorious beach, it’s been a hard re-entry. But today, driving up from errands I didn’t want to run, summer offered me a huge bouquet — one I planted years ago.

The crape myrtle in our front yard have never been top-pruned (‘crape murder, we call it). They’ve only been lovingly pruned from the bottoms up, so they form a glorious ode to this scorching Oklahoma heat. Crisp and colourful, they bloom their fool hearts out.

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I want to be more like crape myrtle, and less like my far pickier roses. They wilt in the heat, complain when the ratio of minerals isn’t right, and right now are being choked out by blasted grapevine the birds planted. Ugh. Instead, I want to bloom where I’m planted — vivid, colourful, and handing out high-fives of happy. Managing quite nicely on what’s available, and returning a large dividend of joy.

It hasn’t happened quite like that (I get sooo cranky when it’s hot!), but I’m getting better. Who knows? By this time next year, I may be able to bloom my own fool heart out!

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island time

Battery Park the author's

Battery Park
the author’s

This is a liveoak, one of my favourite trees. Because they wear their age gracefully — their gnarled branches reaching out to passersby, beckoning with welcome. Battery Park in Charleston is full of them. Even Hurrican Hugo couldn’t kill them all, despite the feet of water deposited in the park those years ago.  They grow slowly (island time), but they survive. And they’re very beautiful.

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I’ve been living on island time these past few days. Writing haiku & tanka, not blog posts. Composing songs about big waves and fishes for a 2-year-old, not thoughtful reflections. At night, I dream of ‘outside’ (like that same 2-year-old), following a half-hour spent rocking him to sleep. Discussing Nemo the clown fish’s body parts fin, not hand; dorsal fin; tail fin; mouth…eyes… Considering sea shells and pelicans.

Charleston aquarium the author's

Charleston aquarium
the author’s

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There’s a reason it’s called ‘island time.’ You can’t live on the shore w/out the ebb & flow of tide, the traceries of birds overhead, and the music of moving water infusing all you do. Outside becomes part of you, inside. Skin darkens in response to sun, marking you as one of those who follow sun & water. It’s almost a calling, for many.

At the aquarium, I am reminded how little of the ocean shows as I jump breakers, sit in sand, and float within the wet embrace of saltwater. Sea stars, urchins, moon jellies & fire jellies live within arm’s reach, some behind glass, some touchable. Sharks swim w/ jack, while clams and oysters cobble sand. It’s all unseeable from the shoreline, where most of us remain. But on an island? It’s far more apt to bump up against you, so that you notice.

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Now, I don’t mean it intrudes: it’s just there. Or here is probably more accurate. And you’re aware of that. It’s part of every day. Which slows things down. Because after all ~ when there’s that much magic just beneath surface of every day, who wants to rush?

200-year-old wall, Charleston the author's

200-year-old wall, Charleston
the author’s

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Today my beloved sister-in-law drove 2 hours just to see us. Then, after that long drive, she drove us back in to Charleston to show us history: homes that had been in families for 150 years, liveoaks, the old slave market, all the dark & bright pieces of this marvelous puzzle that is the Charleston area. I’d forgotten it was one of the major ports, for instance. Yes, I learned it as a child. But to see the old Customs House is to be sure I won’t forget again.

Just like to see what mosses & other plants have settled happily on a 200-year-old wall is to really GET ‘age.’ Yes, I have moss at home. But even a verrry amateur naturalist can tell the difference between a decade’s moss and more than a century’s. This is the gift of history — courtesy of my sister-in-law’s knowledge of this fascinating American city. She knew just where to walk us for us to see lovingly tended gardens (white ginger & Carolina jessamine), and thick old walls with colonies of moss. Pre-Revolutionary War homes, and oyster shell carriage drives.

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imageThere are downsides to history running slowly — sometimes it’s as thick as molasses. Which means bad habits change slowly (witness the Confederate flag controversy…). But it also means that there are pockets of great beauty, still carefully maintained. Like life beneath the ocean, much of the wonder of a place is only visible when  you look closely. Thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law, I was able to do that today. And thanks to five days spent loosening my (rather tightly wound) internal clock? I can appreciate it!

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rainy days and Mondays

the author's

the author’s

This is the view from the balcony, as I write. A study in silver, grey, moss & a blued-white. Beach grass, beach umbrellas, and beach birds. The pelicans that usually circle in front of & above the condos that fringe the shoreline have taken cover. Even the intrepid seagulls have fled.

Me? I’m watching in awe, as Nature does her fickle number. A few crazy boys are still wave jumping, but for the most part, the beach emptied quickly. Rain has that effect on folks. It should be sunny at the beach, right??

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the author's

the author’s

I don’t care. I can smell the unfamiliar fragrance of rain striking foliage I don’t recognise (well, except for the date palms — too many years in the desert not to know what date palms look like in bloom!): a warm, sweet smell. And of course the sound of heavy rain (this is NOT a drizzle) falling, striking. All while the curling waves continue to roll to shore. The beach could care less.

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I’m sure there are folks displeased w/ the weather — my beloved would be, were he not napping. But to me, just being able to observe the rain & waves, breathing deeply of sea grass & wet palm trees, is bliss. The rest of the family is napping, as well: the ever-energetic two-year-old, the son & DIL. I have this moment alone. Already the rain is lessening, and the moment passing. But for now, the only sound score to my life is thunder, and the steady silver music of rain. And in the distance, if you put your ear to the wind, you can hear the sea.

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